The 2011 Shonky Awards

Choice lemons go to sneaky Smurf app, risky roof racks, baby's dummy, stingy insurers, tiny eggs that make big promises as well as weight-loss and energy saving cons

The sneaky and high cost of a Smurfs ‘free’ app game, the poor treatment flood victims received from insurers and a hatchback with roof racks ‘for cosmetic purposes only’ have all been awarded Shonkys at CHOICE’s sixth annual event for bad goods and services.

Other winners include quail eggs with outlandish health claims, a $300 plug-in energy saving device that makes little difference to power bills and SensaSlim a weight loss spray which makes even snake oil salesmen look good.

The Shonky awards highlight the dodgy, dubious, deceitful and sometimes even dangerous goods and services that come to CHOICE’s attention. While winners may not be breaching regulations the people’s watchdog believes they shouldn’t be allowed to fly under the radar unchallenged.

“The aim of our giant lemon trophy is to remind businesses that they can’t take advantage of others by being less than truthful, bending the rules or putting risky products into the market,” said CHOICE director of campaigns & communications, Christopher Zinn.

Other Shonky award winners include the Peachy Pink shapewear pants which claim their ‘clinically proven’ peaches, green tea and caffeine-infused fabric helps you lose weight; and the blinged-up baby dummy resplendent with colourful glass crystals which could break off and be a choking hazard.

“While no business wants to get a Shonky, we believe the awards also make consumers look more critically and ask serious questions about vacuous health and energy claims, poor service other slippery tricks and traps,” said Mr Zinn.

The 2011 Shonky award winners:

Product: Go4Green EnergySmart
At $299 each the Go4Green EnergySmart device plugs into a power point and claims to save you 10% on your energy bills. When put to the test CHOICE found minimal changes in energy consumption and components valued at $15.

Product: Crystal encrusted baby dummies
Standard baby dummies priced at $25 each decorated with coloured crystals. CHOICE tests found the crystals to come off easily enough to be a choking hazard. The ACCC banned the dummies but they are still available online from overseas suppliers who ship them to Australia using descriptions such as jewelry or hair bows to avoid customs interception.

Product: Chery J1 car
New to the Australian market, the Chery J1 car retails for approximately $11,990 and comes complete with sporty looking roof racks. However, upon closer inspection of the car an inadequate sticker warns: “Roof rails are for cosmetic purposes only. Do not use.” The sticker could peel off or be ignored leaving any load on the road and not on the rack.

Product: Quail Kingdom quail eggs
According to Quail Kingdom’s website these eggs at $2.50 per dozen, treat everything from tuberculosis, Chernobyl-style excessive radiation, excess weight, hair loss, wrinkles, male potency issues, kidney stones…the list goes on. However CHOICE could not find any clinical trials demonstrating these healing powers and they are not listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods; surprising given the high-level health claims.

Product: Peachy Pink shapewear
Infused with green tea, peaches and caffeine, these $54.95 pants, when worn 8 hours a day for 21 days claim to be the only ‘clinically proven anti-cellulite shapewear on the market’. When looking for the research results CHOICE discovered they were undertaken by Spincontrol Laboratories whose website proclaims ‘2 doses of accuracy, 1 dose of creativity and a touch of audacity’. If any tests have been done on the peachy pants, none have been published in a peer reviewed journal.

Product: SensaSlim weight loss spray
Weight loss oral spray costing approximately $70.00 per bottle that claims to promote weight loss by decreasing your desire for food. There is no evidence the product works and in an attempt to block complaints lodged with regulators and gag a leading consumer health advocate, the company sued for defamation. It all went pear shaped from there involving the ACCC, receivers, franchisees who had lost big money and a dodgy website.

Product: The insurance industry
The 2011 Queensland, NSW and Victorian floods saw thousands of home owners left high and dry by insurance companies that rejected their claims. In many cases this was because of numerous definitions for the term ‘flood’ and the convoluted abuse of the English language which made policies indecipherable to even lawyers.

Product: Smurfs’ Village App game
A Smurf game for iPhones, iPads and now the Android platform which comes as a free app but has a sting in the tail. Whilst the download is free, to build the village players make in-app purchases of Smurfberries to use as Smurf currency. The Smurfberries cost between $5.49 for a basket and up to $109.99 for a wagon. The game is aimed at young children who have unwittingly clocked up bills of hundreds of dollars because the disclosure and payments warnings are inadequate.

Read CHOICE's 2011 Shonky awards report

To access print ready images contact Aislinn O’Toole: 0415 841 969

Media enquiries:
• Christopher Zinn: CHOICE director of campaigns & communications: 0425 296 442
• Ingrid Just: CHOICE media manager/spokesperson: 0430 172 669

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